Five surprising things about Microsoft's Kin

Now that the Kin cat is out of the bag, here are a few things I found surprising about the devices (after reporting for more than two years on every twist and turn about Pink).
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

It's official: Microsoft's Pink project is no longer a mystery (or even a partial mystery). The details are out, and the name of the phones, targeted at the teen/twenty-something market, is Kin.

There have been plenty of rumors. But now the specs and actual photos are here. There's a Kin One and a Kin Two ("Turtle" and "Pure"). Sharp, Verizon and Vodafone are, indeed, the partners. Verizon is going to start offering the first Kins in the U.S. in May and via Vodafone in Germany Europe in "the fall.

Now that the Kin cat is out of the bag, here are a few things I found surprising about the devices (after reporting for more than two years on every twist and turn about Pink):

1. The Kin phones make use of the "same core elements as Windows Phone 7." The Kin isn't a dumbed-down Windows Phone (as we'd been hearing it might be). Kin phones have Exchange connectivity, Zune music/video capabilities and dedicated Bing search buttons, just like Windows Phone 7 phones will. The Kin phones will be the "first Windows Phones that ship with Zune," said Kin team members at the launch today. (I asked several team members what the operating system is inside and no one was willing to say more than it is Windows Compact Edition-based, just like Windows Phone OS 7.0 is; they wouldn't talk about version numbers or whether the two phone OSes have more in common than just their CE roots.)

2. The Kin team spent "thousands of hours" with the target audience before they wrote a line of code. This information-gathering project was part of what was known as "Project Muse" (another codename I had heard and wondered about). Microsoft teams like to pride themselves on doing customer outreach and telemetry, but they interviewed 50,000 (!) people, I was told. Planning started back in the summer of 2007, a year before Microsoft acquired Danger.

3. Speaking of Danger -- and the Sidekick -- the Kin doesn't seem much like a Sidekick at all. Yes, a bunch of the Danger folks defected and/or were let go, post acquisition. But calling the Kin "the next-generation Sidekick" isn't really accurate. I asked whether there were any elements of the Danger OS in the new phones and was told no.

4. There are no apps for the Kin. No app marketplace and nothing other than the Kin service which will connect users to their Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and Kin Studio (cloud services collection). At least for now, there are no plans to introduce apps for the Kin devices.

5. Microsoft kept the Kin name a secret until today. I had a chance to ask Roz Ho, Corporate Vice President of Microsoft's Premium Mobile Service team and the head of the Pink project about the "Kin" name. Like other Microsoft execs, she emphasized the "kinship" connections of Kin. She also said Microsoft considered lots of names -- possibly as many as a thousand -- before deciding on Kin. (She wouldn't share any of the other names; I asked.) It's kind of amazing kin.com was available and that no one figured out until today that Pink = Kin.

I've got some more interesting tidbits about Kin, Pink and other related topics from a conversation I had with Ho coming up in my next post. Stay tuned.

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